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Family worried about health after moving near burned properties Marshall Fire

A Louisville family wonders if it's safe to move back into their home in a neighborhood burned by the Marshall Fire, even after work to get rid of smoke and ash.

LOUISVILLE, Colo. — Nine months after the Marshall Fire, there are still a lot of questions from families whose homes survived. Some wonder if it's safe to live there even after a ton of work to get rid of the smoke and ash.

On one side of Diane Ballard's neighborhood in Louisville, families are starting to rebuild their homes. On the other side, the damage is harder to see. 

"Everyone thinks when your house didn't burn, 'Oh, you just moved back in. That's great,'" Ballard said. "That hasn't been how it has been at all."

She and her neighbors feel lucky to have homes. But given how close they were to the flames, they wonder if it's safe to live in those homes.

"It got into all the nooks and crannies of our house," she said. "We have neighbors who have ash in their kitchen cabinets. It came from behind and worked its way in their outlets."

Ballard and her family moved back into their home in June after cleaning the house. They've ripped out the carpet, repainted the walls and replaced the windows. 

She wonders if it wasn't enough. 

"I have physical symptoms," she said. "I don't feel well in our house and they have been there since we returned."

Ballard said she feels a burning sensation around her lips and mouth, and she has a scratchy throat. She said those symptoms go away when she leaves the house. 

"Later in the process – many months in – people started to realize we need to bring in industrial hygienists into our houses to test," she said. "Once again I wonder why no one mentioned this early on."

One of her neighbors hasn't moved back in yet nine months later. Ballard said a company told them they need to remove the drywall too.

"We brought our kids back into homes and wonder what the long-term health results will be for our families," Ballard said. 

Recovery hasn't been easy for them either even when things may look normal on her side of the street.

"Very challenging in so many ways," she said.

SUGGESTED VIDEOS: Marshall Fire Coverage 


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